Qualifications and Responsibilities
Vocational advisors are Unitarian Universalist ministers who have received at least their first renewal in preliminary fellowship. They serve as teachers and mentors for students and nurture the ideals of collegiality and coaching with the hope for a lifetime of successful ministry for all participants. The advisor’s role is to help students with their formation and discernment of call, give practical suggestions as warranted, and teach theological reflection. This is a professional relationship offering students the freedom to share honestly about their learning, not an evaluative relationship.
The vocational advisor meets with assigned students once a month during the academic year, primarily in person, and preferably at the advisor’s office so the student can observe the workplace. However, whatever is convenient and appropriate for the pair is acceptable. For instance, it is fine to meet at the seminary or coffee shop or to use video technology or phone.
At the end of a year or the completion of a advisor/advisee relationship, evaluate how it went.
Duration of Vocational Advisor Relationship
The vocational advisor should not be the student’s minister or internship supervisor. If a minister selects the advisee to be their intern, another vocational advisor should be assigned to the student. If the student moves to a new location for an internship, especially to a site within the district, an advisor nearer that site should be found if possible.
The duration of the advisor-advisee relationship depends upon the needs of the student and the effectiveness of the match. It may begin when the student enters theological school and last until preliminary fellowship, or it may last only a year. It is suggested that the vocational advisor and student meet at least four times before deciding it is an inappropriate match. Both students and professional advisors should also stay in touch with the student liaison for support, especially if there is any concern about the relationship.
Note: Your Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) chapter may wish to have discussions about how to include candidates and vocational advisors in covenant groups or other small groups.
Suggestions for Effective Meetings
Review the meeting suggestions for a denominational representative.
“I wanted each step to be part of my formation rather than just another thing to get done. So I used my vocational advisor to help me stay in touch with myself and in touch with what each step along the way was asking of me. And because she knew Unitarian Universalist formation very well, she could help me navigate that.” Student
“I've had two vocational advisors during my seminary experience. I've met with them once a month consistently which has been a big source of support. They really have helped me translate and interpret some of my experiences, and it has just been a safe, open place for me to talk about my struggles and also talk about where things are clicking. Having a vocational advisor is the feature of the program that I've really taken advantage of.” Student